The Promise: Plot


The Promise: Plot

Title of Book: The Promise
Author of Book: Chaim Potok

1.In 10-12 sentences, write a brief outline of the plot of the novel. Be
sure to make clear the major conflict of the story.

1.In the beginning of the novel, the main character, Reuben, is spending
some time with his father at their cottage. His friend, Rachel is also
vacationing nearby. Reuben finds out that Rachel's 14 year old cousin,
Michael, is mentally ill, and Reuben seems to be the only person Michael
will talk to. Near the end of the summer, Reuben's best friend Danny comes
to visit Reuben and the Gordons (Rachel's family) invite Danny over to
discuss Michael because Danny is a genius, and he is studying psychology.
At the summer's end, Michael is put into the treatment centre at which
Danny is working. Reuben becomes friends with Michael's father, Abraham
Gordon, a very respected scholar. Unfortunately, his ideas are not approved
by Reuben's professor, Rav Kalman. Rav Kalman tells Reuben that if he
continues to see Abraham and Michael Gordon, he will not be given his
smicha, the degree which he has been working to get for so long. Also,
Michael does not respond well to the treatment centre, and bec omes
violent. Danny decides to use an experimental treatment on Michael, which
involves not letting him talk to anyone or interact with anything except
his therapist. The major conflict is when Michael becomes catatonic, and it
seems as if Reuben will not get his smicha and Michael will never be cured.
Danny decides to have a long conversation with Rav Kalman, and convinces
him to at least give Reuben the smicha examination. During the examination,
Reuben uses a method called test emendation, which is strictly forbidden by
his school. Reuben backs up his arguments so well, that Rav Kalman does
give him smicha, and when Reuben tells this to Michael (although Michael is
in a comatose state) Michael awakes and tells Reuben, Danny and his parents
that he hates his father because when his father writes a book, all the
people who disagree with his ideas write hateful articles, and
excommunicate the Gordon family.

2.What is the setting of the novel?

2.The novel is set in Willamsburg, Brooklyn, in the 1950's.

3.In one sentence, state the climax of the novel. Explain how it solves the

3.The climax of this novel is when Reuben receives his smicha because it
solves the problem of Reuben not getting his smicha, and when Reuben tells
Michael that he received smicha, Michael wakes up and tells Reuben and
Danny everything.

4.Name 2 important character traits of a major character in the novel. Then
give 2 examples from the story demonstrating each trait.

4.The character I am examining is Danny Saunders.
The first character trait is that Danny was very trustworthy.
   Example 1: " 'I trust him....I needed someone I could trust....someone I
       could trust absolutely and without the slightest reservation. I
       trust Daniel Saunders.' " pg. 244
   Example 2: My second example is that Dr. Altman, Danny's supervisor at the
       treatment centre, trusted Danny enough to let him go ahead with the
       experiment on Michael.
The second character trait is intensity.

   Example 1: " He was unshaven and his eyes blinked repeatedly and he looked
           as though he had not slept in a long time...'Went back?' I
           stared at him. 'You weren't home for Shabbat?'...'I've been at
           the treatment centre since three in the morning.'" pg.256
   Example 2: " Danny was playing volleyball the way he had once played
           baseball, with an intense, hungry eagerness to win." pg.380

5.Circle one of the following categories below to describe how you would
rate the book. Making reference to the novel's subject matter, language,
character development and other elements, explain why you rated the book as
you did.

5.I would rate the book as very interesting. I would rate it in this way
becuase, first, I could indentify with the subject. I knew most of the
Hebrew or Yiddish terms before the author translated them, and although it
did not apply directly to me, I could see paralels between the novel and my
own life. The language in the novel was well choosen, at an in-between
level, not too hard to understand, but very well written. Some of the
metaphores used in the book were so brilliant, I would have rather done a
full novel study of this book, because I know I must have missed so much of
the depth of the novel.

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